Essay On History Lesson Plan
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BLACK DEATH LESSON PLAN - DISCUSSION
The decision to create a lesson plan about the Black Plague for a primary school audience was not an easy one; after all, it is a dark, devastating time in world history, with detailed and gruesome aspects to it that might turn some younger students off of the subject. However, in the context of a grade 4-6 classroom, I firmly believe that this lesson plan could be entirely beneficial, and the Black Death subject can be addressed with the appropriate sensitivity, care and gravity. In fact, the darkness and intrigue of the subject might provide further interest to history students as well, giving them a dramatic hook on which to explore this particular era of UK history (the Middle Ages) in greater detail. The sense of empathetic reconstruction of the lives of villagers, clergymen and more may prove a vital tool for involving students more heavily in the events of the Black Plague (Stockley, 1983).
The study of the Black Plague, particularly as it relates to the overall history and influence on European and English culture, serves many of the tenets of the UK National Curriculum (2014) well. According to the National Curriculum, pupils of history are meant to “know and understand the history of these islands as a coherent, chronological narrative, from the earliest times to the present day,” “know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world,” “gain and deploy a historically grounded understanding of abstract terms,” “understand historical concepts,” and “understand the methods of historical enquiry,” among other things (UK National Curriculum, 2014). This unit in particular fulfils most, if not all, of these requirements, as the Black Death unit can give students an idea of the Plague’s place in English history, how it affected the wider world and England’s sense of empire, provide greater context for key terms like ‘peasantry’ and ‘civilisation,’ and give insight into how researchers and scientists uncovered some of the most current data about the Black Plague, thus linking it to our current anthropological and scientific methods. Key stage 1 content is intended to focus on “events beyond living memory that are significant nationally or globally,” among other things, for which the Black Death can certainly qualify (UK National Curriculum, 2014). The Plague itself irrevocably changed the population and landscape of Europe in the Middle Ages, and provided a baseline cultural and religious change that helped to bring about the Renaissance, linking its existence clearly to the rest of England’s history and that of the whole world.
One of the most significant benefits of this unit in particular is that it will allow the children to practice a sense of creativity, which is thought to be incredibly important to student learning (Csikszentmihayli, 1996). Creativity, in the realm of education, occurs when there is the interaction of cultures with symbolic rules, individuals who create novelty within (or outside) these symbols, and a field of experts who provide validation and recognition for said creative endeavour (Csikszentmihayli, 1996). In the case of the Black Death unit, the groups can use their Powerpoint presentation to tackle any one of a variety of subjects creatively, including providing re-enactments of a typical European village during the Plague, and so on. Offering this creative outlet for the children provides them with a greater investment and motivation for learning.
In addition to that, learning about the Black Plague through this lesson plan offers good practice in primary history. The goal is to synthesis rote facts and study about the Black Plague into a greater context for how that affected the rest of British history moving forward; this follows from the idea that understanding can come from “awareness of a coherent, plausible mental structure representing an event or situationand of the consequent feelings” (Newton et al 1998, p. 50). The aforementioned avenues for creativity will allow students to exercise a level of autonomy that will allow them to guide their learning and arrive to these conclusions on their own. The idea is to turn the historical framework of the Black Death into a grander historical problem – how did we get from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and beyond? (Bain, 2005). Questions like “how was education affected by the Black Plague, specifically the rise of universities?” can help students create connections between the far-off events of the Middle Ages to something much more immediate and modern, the effects of this event being evident and apparent to them (Courtenay, 1980).
The way in which this particular lesson plan is conducted will meet the needs of a wide variety of children, offering differentiated learning in a variety of techniques that should appeal to a diverse range of learners. The multimedia, interdisciplinary nature of this study should provide for multiple avenues for learning – whether through the rote lectures and handouts and textbook materials, to performing their own research online, to putting on re-enactments or roleplaying during their final presentation, and more, student groups will be permitted to create their own methods of demonstrating their learning (Wineburg, 2001). The use of diverse groups (with students of varying levels of learning participating together) will also permit students to help each other with their studies, providing help to struggling students by pairing them with quicker students, and so on. I also hope to make myself available for consultation after class to allow students to tailor their learning to their strengths as well, and give them the freedom and autonomy needed to learn the way they learn best.
History education, both in theory and as per National Curriculum standards, is about teaching students the link between the past and the present (and, possibly, the future). The Black Death, being as dramatic and well-known an event as it was, is a perfect place to permit a comparatively open-ended, differentiated lesson plan in which students work mostly in groups to help each other learn the best way they can. The Black Death’s impact on English society, culture and religion (as well as that of the world) offers a wide range of topics and focuses on which the students can occupy themselves, with the help of multimedia resources and hands-on, diverse instruction from educators.
UK NATIONAL CURRICULUM (2014)
Bain, R. B. (2005). “They Thought the World Was Flat?” Applying the Principles of How
People Learnin Teaching High School History. How Students Learn: History Mathematics, and Science in theClassroom, edited by M. Suzanne Donovan and John D. Bransford (Washington: National Academy Press, 2005), 179-214.
Cooper, H. (2012) Teaching History Creatively London: Routledge
Cooper, H. (2007) History 3-11 London: David Fulton
Cooper, H & Rowley,C. eds. (2009) Cross-curricular approaches to Teaching and Learning
Courtenay, W. J. (1980). The effect of the Black Death on English higher
education. Speculum, 55(04), 696-714.
Csikszentmihayli M,(1996) Creativity. Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention.
Harper Collins New York.
Hoodless,P.(2008) Teaching History in Primary Schools. [Online].
Newton D. P, Newton L. D and Oberski I (1998) Learning and conceptions of understanding in
history and science: lecturers and new graduates compared. Studies in Higher Education v 23, 1, 43-57.
Stockley, D. (1983). Empathetic reconstruction in history and history teaching. History and
Turner-Bisset, R. (2006) Creative History in the Primary School . Netlibrary [Online]
Wineburg, S. (2001). Historical thinking and other unnatural acts: Charting the future of teaching
the past. Temple University Press.
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